February 08, 2004

The Twilight Zone

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Finished at approximately 0330 hrs, February 8, 2004
Rating: 94

This book was a pretty wild ride for me. More of an adventure and an experience than any other book I've read recently. I couldn't (and didn't) just sit and read it. I felt it and lived it. Despite my complaints concerning stream-of-consciousness, I got into the characters' heads and I knew what they knew. It wasn't the same as when you see and hear what the characters see and hear, as in most books . . . I saw and heard what they saw and heard how they saw and heard it. The characters intrigued me. Some, I recognized as people I know (kinda scary). The rest, I felt as if I knew by the time I was done. Jason and Quentin particularly struck a chord, if I had to pick two.

I don't fully identify with Quentin, but I sympathize with him. He is truly a hopeless romantic. He has almost a symbiotic relationship with this ideal of women being pure and unspoiled . . . So much so, in fact, that when the ideal dies, he can't survive it by very long. The odd thing that just occured to me is: I know what happened to him, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't actually say he committed suicide anywhere in the book. On the flip side, he does say, over and over, that he has committed incest with his sister. But I don't think he actually did . . .

The poor guy is full of high and noble ideas about, as I say, chivalry and purity and nobility and love (but not sex by any means) that he has built his emotional foundation on, but he is completely unable to live up to them. And is if that weren't bad enough, he tries to live this out by protecting his sister from a man who possesses all of these traits. Ouch. Forced to recognize that he falls miserably short of his own ideal self, and at the same time, forced to see that his sister is just the opposite of the ideal that he needed her to be, he is doomed.

Jason, on the other hand . . . The first six words we hear out of him are: "Once a bitch always a bitch . . ." If he is harboring any illusions about women, then they are the opposite of Quentin's. Jason is the eternal victim. Everyone is out to get him, all the time. Every move made by the people around him is carefully calculated to cause the most inconvenience possible. And he loves it. He begs for more. When his boss mentions (he doesn't complain, in fact, he says "It's all right.") that Jason has been gone for the entire afternoon from the store where they work, Jason all but begs to be fired ("If it's not all right, you know what you can do about it.") He'd love that, I think.

When he leaves his house after breakfast, Luster still hasn't put the spare tire on the car because he's been watching Benjy (the retarded man).

I went on back to the garage. There was the tire, leaning against the wall, but be damned if I was going to put it on.

Later, when he has gone on a wild goose chase out of town after Quentin (the illegitmate daughter of his sister Caddy, not his brother Quentin who committed suicide) and she has managed to let all of the air out of one of his tires before escaping back to town, he revels in the situation.

Well, I just sat there. It was getting on toward sundown, and town was about five miles. They never even had guts enough to puncture it, to jab a hole in it. They just let the air out. I just stood there for awhile, thinking about that kitchen full of niggers and not one of them had time to lift a tire onto the rack and screw up a couple of bolts. It was kind of funny because even she couldn't have seen far enough ahead to take the pump out on purpose, unless she thought about it while he was letting the air out maybe. But what it probably was, was somebody took it out and gave it to Ben to play with for a squirt gun because they'd take the whole car to pieces if he wanted it.

Ohhh, he loves it . . .

It's a curious thing how no matter what's wrong with you, a man'll tell you to have your teeth examined and a woman'll tell you to get married. It always takes a man that never made much at anything to tell you how to run your business, though. Like these college professors without a whole pair of socks to their name, telling you how to make a million in ten years, and a woman that couldn't even get a husband can always tell you how to raise a family.

He has advice for everyone about everything, all the time. But they rarely hear what it is. Everyone is always doing everything wrong. They're always doing something monumentally stupid. No one has any sense. It amuses him to recognize this and say nothing. If that's the way they want to do it, let them. Of course, he's usually wrong . . . He sees the black man who works at the store making a delivery in the old wagon and notes that a wheel is about to come off. So he stays put to see if the guy'll get out of the alley before it does. The wheel doesn't come off, but that doesn't stop him from going off on an entire train of thought about his lousy perceptions of the whole race, what a poor businessman his boss is, etc.

When he gets two free tickets to the show that's in town from his boss, and Luster begs him for one, he offers to sell it for five cents. Luster hasn't got five cents, so Jason pops open the stove and burns both tickets right in front of him. The only person forced to interact with Jason Compson who I have no sympathy for is Mother. Before I move on briefly to her, I want to mention one other thing: I know Jason . . . well.

Mother is the same as Jason, really. She's just a lot louder and more whiney. She's a much more extreme sort of victim . . . She's a martyr. Out of her four children, Jason is the only good one. The other three were just a curse on her. But she deserved it. She is devoted to Jason. She does everything she can to make his life easier, even though she is sick unto death. And she makes sure he knows it, too. *checks . . . finds no actual evidence that she ever does anything* She knows she's just a burden, but she'll be gone soon, and then his life will be easier, and this comforts her. I guess it's supposed to comfort him too. In any case, she's been saying it for fifteen years. I also know Mother . . . well. *is not referring to his own mother*

The weirdest thing about this book is that the most important character . . . isn't in it. It's like a black hole . . . you only know it's there because everything else is revolving around it. Caddy is the center of everything, but she is only seen in random flashbacks. Without her at the center of things, the family is slowly shaking itself to pieces. It has shattered, it will shatter, it is shattering.

But no one is going to see this happen. There isn't an end to the story. There isn't any closure. In fact, ultimately you end up having read the same story four times. Each perspective filled in a few different gaps, but what you are left with isn't complete. The repetition gave me a sense of futility and of being trapped. I almost get the feeling that if the book went on, I would turn the page only to find myself re-reading Benjy's section. Just as the reader is stuck in the minds of the different characters, so is each character stuck in his own memories forever. I feel every bit as trapped by the crazy world of the book as everyone in it is. You can't get out. You are doomed to repeat.

. . . I think I'm haunted . . .

Posted by Jared at February 8, 2004 08:15 PM | TrackBack